Occidental football equipment finds a second life with new programs

A statue of Jack Kemp ‘57 stands next to Patterson Field at Occidental College in Los Angeles, CA. Sept. 15, 2021. Eddie Dong/The Occidental

After the dissolution of the Occidental College football program Oct. 13, 2020, the college donated the team’s football-specific equipment to local high school football teams and made a bulk sale of helmets to Lincoln University, a small university in Oakland, CA. The money from this sale went toward necessary repairs in shared locker room spaces, according to Occidental Athletic Director Shanda Ness.

While Occidental sold a small portion of the program’s equipment, Ness said giving back to local athletic programs was a priority when finding a new home for Occidental’s football gear.

“When making decisions regarding the football equipment our focus was on being able to help local public high schools in the area if possible – Eagle Rock High School in particular,” Ness said via email.

According to Ness, Occidental donated the majority of the team’s football-specific gear to Eagle Rock High School, which won its first home playoff game in 2018. Eagle Rock High is the college’s oldest community partner, Ness said, located just over Fiji Hill on Yosemite Drive.

Abraham Lincoln High School in Lincoln Heights also received equipment from Occidental, according to Ness. Located five miles away from Occidental in East LA, Lincoln High School is a participant in Occidental’s Upward Bound Program, which provides academic and mentoring resources to local schools in NELA.

Gabriel Cotero, varsity football coach and assistant athletic director at Lincoln High School, said the college contacted him about donating the equipment, which he later picked up from campus.

“The Occidental athletic department donated two sets of game jerseys, two sets of practice jerseys and two sets of game pants,” Cotero said via email.

Cori Vallembois, an assistant athletic director at Occidental and director of the college’s JEDI program, said she coordinated the logistics of the donation with Cotero in June 2021. Former Occidental College quarterback Thomas Mercogliano (junior) said that given the program’s cancellation, he is glad the team’s equipment will still be used.

Occidental and Lincoln High School share the same colors and mascot, according to Ness, making Lincoln a good candidate for donation. Cotero said that the Lincoln High football team has enjoyed the new uniforms.

“The students loved wearing the new uniforms on the first game of the season, which we won,” Cotero said via email.

The Lincoln High football team is currently undefeated with a 4-0 record, according to Cotero, with a total of 57 athletes between their varsity and junior varsity programs.

“We are looking very good,” Cotero said via email.

Jaden Rattay, a wide receiver on the Lincoln High School football team who scored eight touchdowns over two games this season, said the equipment has been helpful to the team’s strong start this season.

“The equipment looks great, and it feels great as well,” Rattay said via email.

According to Ness, multiple colleges and universities reached out to Occidental after the program was cut, inquiring about the team’s equipment. Ness said Occidental eventually decided to sell the team’s helmets to Lincoln University, a small college in Oakland, CA, which launched their football program this season.

“We chose to sell the helmets to Lincoln University because of the technical requirements that apply to helmets and felt like a good fit for their needs,” Ness said via email.

Ness said there are no plans to make alterations to Patterson Field, where the football team used to compete, due to continued use by other athletic programs including men’s and women’s club rugby. Men’s club rugby was the recipient of some of the football program’s non-football-specific equipment, according to Ness.